Looking for a great all around headphone
Apr 17, 2020 at 9:49 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16

Stenson

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Hey guys,

I'm looking for a new set of headphones. I am very much a newbie in this hobby. I've been using some old Beyerdynamic MMX300s for about 12 years and they have definitely seen better days. So I'm here looking for some recommendations. I'd like to keep the price at $1,000 or less, but I am pretty flexible in that regard. The main uses for the headphones will be both music and gaming. I have no issues doing some EQ to get the sound quality I want. I've been using closed headphones for a long time. I'm undecided whether I really want open or closed headphones. I'm now older and at a new stage of life, enjoying my kids as they grow up. I see both positives and negatives of both types (nice and quiet when the headphones are on but can't hear if anyone calls for me vs. hearing everything but being able to jump up to help when I hear something).

Cliff notes version:
  • Budget: ~$1,000, somewhat flexible
  • Main Uses: Gaming and music
  • Open / Closed: TBD, looking at both options for now
  • Other Qualities:
    • Comfortable
    • Deep bass extension
    • Durable, would hope to keep these as my only pair of headphones for the next 10 years
    • Very Detailed
    • Imaging is more important to me than sound stage
Headphones that I've heard:
  • Sennheisser HD800S
    • Time: About a month
    • Good: so detailed, great imaging
    • Bad: thin sound, bass was very lacking, fit issues with oversized cups (leaning back in my chair pushed them forward into my ear)
  • Sennheisser HD820
    • Time: About a month
    • Good: same as above but slightly less thin, slightly more bass
    • Bad: same fit issue, seal issue (maybe because I wear glasses)
  • These I only listened to for about 30 minutes - 1 hour each. It was a while back, so a brief take on each...
    • Mr. Speakers Ether Flow Open: these were my favorite of this listening group. Sounded very closed for being an open headphone.
    • Mr. Speakers Ether Flow Closed: sounded very boring. Nothing really stood out about these.
    • Mr. Speakers Aeon Closed: sounded more lifeless than the Mr Speakers Ether Flow Closed.
    • Audeze LCD-3: these were interesting. Felt like they wouldn't be comfortable long term and sound felt veiled... bass was great, sound was anything but thin... so not sure if that veiled sound was just not enough time to adapt to them.

Thanks in advance!
 
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Apr 20, 2020 at 1:32 PM Post #2 of 16

pjones5

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A couple of my recommendations to look into...

1) Sony MDR-Z7M2, retail about $600. I would recommend the Z1R, but those are quite a bit out of your budget. Sometimes you can find them on sale or used for around $1,300. The Z7M2s are super comfortable, have good imaging, great build quality, and a warm sound signature. Reviews on them can be hit or miss. Some people are die-hard fans of the Z7M2, some we're just unimpressed. Most debates were around the sound signature. Sony has got a unique tuning that people either love or hate. Everybody agrees on the comfort and build quality though. It does seem like the Z7M2s respond well to EQ though.
2) ZMF headphones. I have not done a ton of research about these headphones, but it sounds like whoever gets them loves them. They've got a lot of options $2,000+, but several in the $600 - $1200 range.
3) Focal Elear and Elegia. Again, haven't tried these personally, but I've heard a lot of great things. Drop.com also offers their version for cheaper.

More importantly too, if you're buying $1000 headphones then you want a fairly decent setup. What are you running for DAC/amp?

From what I've read the Z7M2 are probably the most versatile in the above list - they can be driven by anything from a cellphone to a $1200 amp stack.

I would almost have you consider getting two $500 or three $300 headphones. For instance, you could get the Z7M2 for when you're looking for comfortable, extended music listening, and the Drop x Sennheiser HD6XXs (retail ~ $200) for gaming. With that extra $200 you could get yourself a pretty decent DAC/amp. Just my thoughts!

I only suggest the above, because I was in a similar boat. I figured I could either spend a lot of money on one pair of headphones (I came very close to getting the Z7M2s myself and if they weren't out of stock when I looked, I might have pulled the trigger), or I could spend a lot on several items. I ended up getting several pairs of headphones from Drop - the HD6XXs, Meze 99 Noirs, HE4XXs, one pair of IEMs (AKG N40s, on sale for $99; normally $400), and the FiiO BTR5 and M11 DAP. All of that hit around $1,100. You figure too that I collected those items over a period of several months to build the foundation of my listening experience.
 
Apr 26, 2020 at 4:32 PM Post #3 of 16

Stenson

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Thanks for the feedback!

I wish there were some folks who had heard Beyerdynamics that closely resemble the MMX 300s to be able to give some first hand comparisons. Not being able to hear the headphones before buying is so difficult. Getting a few different pairs would help me figure out what pair I like best, but I usually just gravitate towards a single set. So I feel like buying multiple pairs would be wasting money. From the description of sound I gave, how do any of the headphones you bought compare (like the HD6XX or HE4XX)?

The ZMF headphones you pointed to seem interesting. Looks like they offer free driver replacements for life if something goes wrong. Of course, the ones I'm seeing most people rave about are the highest end ones (Virite / Virite closed). I could probably rationalize saving up for a while longer to splurge, but back to that same dilemma of having not heard them before pulling the trigger. Luckily I was able to return the Sennheissers I listened to before, I don't think that would be case with a ZMF. Not discounting them because of that, just makes it more of a risky purchase.

I'm a little leary of Sony headphones. I have a set of Sony MDR-1RNCs that my work gave me. I'm not too impressed with it, it sounds so lifeless. Seems like the MDR-1RNCs have a pretty good rating, so maybe I'm just not a big fan of Sony's sound signature. Though from what I'm reading, some folks seem to love the Z1R as a fun headphone... so will have to keep that on the short list.

As far as DAC / AMP, that was going to be my next research project. I have a Creative X7 that is about 6 years old... I don't have any issues or complaints, it has worked well for me. But having said that, I'm interested in understanding how much a better DAC / AMP would affect the sound quality. Hoping to get headphones first (since my current pair is in shambles) and possibly upgrade the DAC / AMP second.
 
Apr 26, 2020 at 7:19 PM Post #4 of 16

pjones5

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Thanks for the feedback!

I wish there were some folks who had heard Beyerdynamics that closely resemble the MMX 300s to be able to give some first hand comparisons. Not being able to hear the headphones before buying is so difficult. Getting a few different pairs would help me figure out what pair I like best, but I usually just gravitate towards a single set. So I feel like buying multiple pairs would be wasting money. From the description of sound I gave, how do any of the headphones you bought compare (like the HD6XX or HE4XX)?

The ZMF headphones you pointed to seem interesting. Looks like they offer free driver replacements for life if something goes wrong. Of course, the ones I'm seeing most people rave about are the highest end ones (Virite / Virite closed). I could probably rationalize saving up for a while longer to splurge, but back to that same dilemma of having not heard them before pulling the trigger. Luckily I was able to return the Sennheissers I listened to before, I don't think that would be case with a ZMF. Not discounting them because of that, just makes it more of a risky purchase.

I'm a little leary of Sony headphones. I have a set of Sony MDR-1RNCs that my work gave me. I'm not too impressed with it, it sounds so lifeless. Seems like the MDR-1RNCs have a pretty good rating, so maybe I'm just not a big fan of Sony's sound signature. Though from what I'm reading, some folks seem to love the Z1R as a fun headphone... so will have to keep that on the short list.

As far as DAC / AMP, that was going to be my next research project. I have a Creative X7 that is about 6 years old... I don't have any issues or complaints, it has worked well for me. But having said that, I'm interested in understanding how much a better DAC / AMP would affect the sound quality. Hoping to get headphones first (since my current pair is in shambles) and possibly upgrade the DAC / AMP second.

That's definitely fair about the Sony's. I'm always hesitant to recommend them to people because they do have their own house signature that causes people to disagree. The Z7M2s, I think, would sound better than the MDR-1RNCs, but you still have the same basic sound tuning. So, if you don't like the 1RNCs, then I wouldn't bother with the Z7M2s. Other people case disagree with me though. I haven't listened to either - I'm just taking my experience with Sony headphones, relying on what the internet has told me and synthesizing a response for you.

The HD6XXs and the HE4XXs, I can actually speak to. I will say this, however, my current setup has room for improvement on both fronts. I'm using my FiiO M11 and don't have a dedicated amp stack. I just prefer not to be tied down. I am using a 2.5mm balanced cable for either set of cans for that added power though too. The sound quality on either pair is great, but I do realize that having a DAC/amp setup will give them a little extra boost.
The presentation of the HD6XXs feels more laid back, whereas the HE4XXs are more lively and fun. I like to listen to classical music, acoustic-based stuff, smooth jazz, etc. on my HD6XXs. My HE4XXs are my go-to headphones for rock and pop. Its difficult to compare these cans because they feel more complimentary than contradictory. Its not like they do the same thing, but one pair does it better. So, it comes down to personal taste and genre.

You should look into the Focal Elexs. Retail for ~$600. They've gotten a lot of praise online for their price.
 
Apr 27, 2020 at 12:42 AM Post #5 of 16

Trunks159

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Yeah there's the ZMF sub $1000 cans, the Aeon 2 Open, Focal Elex and Clear, and Quad Era 1. Theres a few more here and there, but I'd go for one of the Focals or Quad Era 1.
 
Apr 27, 2020 at 10:38 AM Post #6 of 16

megabigeye

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You might look into the Beyerdynamic DT 1990. It seems like it checks all of your boxes, with the possible exception of comfort (I don't find them uncomfortable, but they do have pretty strong clamping force). That'd leave you plenty of money for a DAC and amp.
 
Apr 27, 2020 at 12:07 PM Post #7 of 16

bzippy

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Many think that the Focal Clear are about the most balanced, natural and detailed headphones you can get without spending multi thousands. I happened to find mine as a like-new demo set at a local-ish high end store for just $1000. And I did not even have to go there — they shipped them to me. It was risky though, because this place does not allow returns on demo gear sales. Anyway, maybe you’ll have the same luck if you call around? (on the Clears, or anything else)

The only thing I am unsure about is whether the Clear’s bass is enough for you. I mean, it’s plenty (and awesome!) for me, but I think I tend to have lighter bass needs than many others.
 
Apr 27, 2020 at 4:52 PM Post #8 of 16

buke9

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Yes I have to say I do love my Verite open just a fantastic headphone in both sound and looks. Zach’s other dynamics are very good also.
 
May 6, 2020 at 11:42 PM Post #9 of 16

Stenson

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Thank you all for the feedback, and sorry for my sporadic posts. Just welcomed a 3rd kid into the family, so schedule is all over the place. I'll put the Elex, Clear, & DT1990 on my watch list. I'll have to do a little more research here before I make a decision.

I've also been reading up a bit on Fostex headphones. Seeing some pairs that are roughly at the price I'm looking for. What are folks' opinion?

Do most find the Sennheisser's to have enough bass? I was just wondering because I don't THINK I'm the type that likes an overabundance of bass... I just like it to be very present and extended when called for.

Buke9 - do you find the Verite comfortable? How is the bass & imaging? Do they sound completely open or more semi-open? Have you been able to compare it to the Verite Closed?
 
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May 7, 2020 at 12:33 PM Post #10 of 16

Bfh29

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Fostex TH-900 are nice sounding headphones, but not really for vocals. As they have very V shaped sound the vocals sound very far away from you, so be careful with that if that is not an issue for you.

Have a look at Kennerton Vali or ich you can stretch to Odin or Thridi. They are great headphones for the prices on second hand market.

Also try Audeze LCD-X, they have more neutral sound than LCD-3. Or just try Audeze LCD-2C or Closed, great sounding headphones for the price, but you need to listen to them to find out, if it is not too dark for you. But they are not as dark as LCD-3.

Beyerdynamic T1 or T5p are nice.

Or Campfire Cascade are nice, very good materials and construction, not heavy and you can bit modify the sound according to taste with the filters they come with. Sound is musical, just a bit on dark side.
 
May 7, 2020 at 1:14 PM Post #11 of 16

megabigeye

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Thank you all for the feedback, and sorry for my sporadic posts. Just welcomed a 3rd kid into the family, so schedule is all over the place. I'll put the Elex, Clear, & DT1990 on my watch list. I'll have to do a little more research here before I make a decision.

I've also been reading up a bit on Fostex headphones. Seeing some pairs that are roughly at the price I'm looking for. What are folks' opinion?

Do most find the Sennheisser's to have enough bass? I was just wondering because I don't THINK I'm the type that likes an overabundance of bass... I just like it to be very present and extended when called for.

Buke9 - do you find the Verite comfortable? How is the bass & imaging? Do they sound completely open or more semi-open? Have you been able to compare it to the Verite Closed?
Congrats on the little one!!
 
May 7, 2020 at 5:42 PM Post #12 of 16

bzippy

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Yes, congrats! Crazy time to have a baby I guess. Though if memory serves, we spent a lot of time holed up at the very beginning, struggling with the crazy sleep schedule and dealing with the lack of distinction between night and day! But probably a bummer not being able to introduce the little critter to as much of the family as you'd like. Anyway, congrats again!

And yes, you're instincts about the best Sennheisers are correct: not an abundance of low end by any objective measure. A bit lacking and below neutral in fact, to my ears. But I still love mine; they'll always have a place in my regular rotation. I just have to eq a bit of bass boost much of the time (less so with proper amplification though).
 
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May 7, 2020 at 6:32 PM Post #13 of 16

GravityEyelids

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I just want to say that honestly, your best bet might actually be to pickup multiple headphones. Get a solid $250-300 DAC/Amp that will drive most things well, and then pick up like 2 of your top picks. It's very unlikely that your first purchase of high-ish end headphones will be exactly what you wanted. Even if the sound is amazing, things like ergonomics, build, comfort, portability, whether you can lay on a pillow comfortably, etc are things you don't always think of but are important for a headphone you own. And often, you can't even really dig into the sound of a headphone until you've owned it a couple weeks and have adapted to the sound. All of my favorite headphones i own, i was really "meh" about them when i first got them, but they really warmed up to me. And a lot of stuff that i loved immediately, i quickly realize that i wasn't a fan after the first few weeks.

I would buy used so that you can sell them for basically what you paid. If your budget is flexible, it's wise to let yourself go over, since you'll be selling one off anyway. I think you'd be surprised what you can get for around $400 used. There are some incredible options, and picking up a $400-500 pair that suits your needs PERFECTLY will be miles better than balling out on some $800 pair that sounds good on paper and is technically amazing, but leaves you feeling like something is missing.
 
May 7, 2020 at 9:03 PM Post #14 of 16

Bfh29

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For me actually it is other way around. I would rather go for one pair of better headphones even if on some genre of music they won't be perfect, but on most of the other they will sound much more better than lower quality headphones.

Actually 1000 $ is where really nice headphones start and the experience listening to music on this nice pair of headphones is something else.

I agree get a pair of used headphones, you can get to a higher end models that way (just stay away of Audeze headphones manufacture before 2016, they tend to break often :)) Also it is easier to sell them without loosing much money (sometimes even gaining some, if you buy for a good price :)). I like to try headphones that way and I did own some 30+ different kinds of headphones (12 of them were just from Audeze :) ).
 

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